Although Tim Howard did everything but score a goal himself, Team USA has been eliminated from the World Cup. The tournament goes on, and there figures to be plenty of drama (along with flopping and offside calls).
But for many here in the States, the fascination has ended. And for them, it's already time to start dissecting the American version of football … which, believe it or not, is just around the corner.
Today, of course, is Independence Day, and if the forecast was right it's raining cats and dogs now. But it's also 50 days until the first game of the high school football season — Menchville vs. Maury at Todd Stadium.
Here are five questions and/or observations from the Peninsula and Bay Rivers districts to ponder in the meantime:
1. What now for Phoebus? Yes, the Phantoms are 22-3 over the past two seasons. Yes, they haven't lost to a public school in the regular season since 2011. But thanks to the standards set by this program, which won seven state championships from 2001-11, that's not enough.
Last year, Phoebus' season ended with a 17-14 loss to King's Fork in the 4A South semifinals. In 2012, in case you had forgotten, it was a 54-0 humiliation to Lake Taylor in the Eastern Region final.
So will the Phantoms bounce back, if that's the proper description, this season? There were significant losses, including tailback Marshawn Williams and some linemen. But receiver/cornerback Robbie Robinson, the biggest-name recruit on the Peninsula, is back. Look for him to be used as Philip Brown was in the 2000s.
2. Will Heritage keep making progress? In four years, the Hurricanes went from 0-10 to 3-7 to 6-5 to 12-2. It was the best four-year improvement in Peninsula District history, and it's hard to imagine many in the state can match that.
Heritage's best season since 2000, in which it finished 14-0 and won the state, ended with a 46-14 loss to Dinwiddie in the 4A semifinals. Afterward, a defiant coach George Massenburg declared, "We'll be back — I promise."
The coaching is clearly there, and the talent should be with the expected returns of linebacker Dimitri Holloway, receiver Marcus Van Hook, quarterback Jeremiah Boyd and athlete Timothy Holden-Bethea. There's no guarantee the Canes will "be back," but there's no reason they can't be.
3. Will Hampton bounce back? Last season's 7-5 finish was the Crabbers' worst since 1965, six years before Mike Smith's arrival on Queen Street. They've also gone eight years without a state championship for the first time since the '60s. All of which tells you as much about Hampton's storied history as it does a sub-par season.
Last fall, the coaching staff recognized the team might be a year away. Due back this fall are quarterback Jovonn Quillen (2,382 total yards), tailback Demetrius Strickland (887 rushing yards), and wideout Tyquon Wilkins (744 receiving yards). This is an offense that, if set loose, should score a bunch of points.
The question is defense. The Crabbers allowed 249 yards and 22 points a game last season, hardly the type of numbers associated with this program. If the 'D' can improve, the offense should be able to outscore almost anyone.
4. Who lost the most? Denbigh made history in 2013 by winning its first playoff game in school history. The Patriots' eight wins were their most since 1992. And truth be told, Coach Marcellus Harris III knew that would be their year.
Denbigh had 24 seniors on the roster, including most of its heavy hitters on offense. Gone are quarterback Terrence Dingle (2,572 passing yards, 29 TDs), four receivers who combined for 2,243 yards and 27 TDs, and defensive stud Patrick Prosser (130 tackles).
It promises to be a tough rebuilding job, but Harris has been there before.
5. What was the biggest offseason news? After a 0-10 season, its worst ever, Warwick hired Corey Hairston to turn things around. It won't be easy. When the Raiders open their season, he'll be their fourth coach in the past 12 games. Continuity will be the first order of business.
Warwick's was the only coaching change this offseason. As opposed to last year, which saw three.
As usual, there were offseason transfers. One stands out: quarterback/receiver Terrell Toliver left Phoebus for Heritage. That added another gifted athlete to an already talented program. The question is, where will Toliver play? With Boyd returning from a promising freshman year, it would be hard to bench him.
Bay Rivers District
1. Can Lafayette be stopped? That will be difficult. The Rams are 31-5 in three seasons under Andy Linn and won the Bay Rivers District title twice (sharing it with Smithfield in 2012). Sure it won't be easy replacing Jahlil Green's 2,055 yards rushing and 34 TDs or the crunching tackles of 3A East Region defensive MVP Schekel Wallace.
But the run-oriented Rams return five experienced offensive lineman led by all-state pick Coleman Goad, a third-year starter at QB in Brendan McGinty, a game-breaker on offense in Brandon Villanueva-Pernell and six defensive starters. They're district favorites until proven otherwise.
2. Who could stop the Rams? Tabb is a good place to start. With a dynamic starting QB in Nick Hunter, the district's leading returning rusher in Brent Hinson (1,573 yards and 14 TDs in 10 games in 201) and a superb athlete in receiver Antwuan Hicks (25 catches, 21 yards per catch, 65 tackles last season), the nucleus is strong.
Smithfield featured some promising freshmen during last year's 4-6 season. Donald King ran for more than 1,000 yards, but two-way standouts Chris Pierce and Ryan Jones could contribute nearly as much to the attack as sophomores. Rising sophomore Jack Darden leads what should be an stronger and improved line.
3. Bruton replaces Tracy Harrod. Harrod's memorable six-season stint included guiding the 2009 team, the "Dirty 30," to the AA Division 3 state final, where it lost a 20-17 last-second heartbreaker to Northside. Harrod's second in charge, do-it-all assistant Reggie Jones, takes over so the transition should be easier on East Rochambeau Drive than in most places.
A fair amount of talent returns, led by 2A all-state defensive back Zach Uvodich. Linemen Paul Fyffe and Tyler Brown, along with talented All-Conference 33 wide receiver Daniel Jones — the coach's son — add to the talent base. The question as always at the district's smallest school is whether there's enough depth to compete with the Bay Rivers' best.
4. Thad Wheeler takes over at Warhill. Billy Jarvis' resignation as head coach in April 2013 set in motion a coaching carousel that saw one hire (Bryan Davis) last just a month for administrative reasons, before a Jarvis assistant (Obie Boykin) guided the Lions through a 2-8 season. In March, the Lions hired Thad Wheeler, perhaps best known in the area as a physical linebacker who helped William and Mary reach the 2004 Division I-AA national semifinals.
Wheeler spent a number of seasons thereafter assisting his father — legendary former Lafayette coach Paul Wheeler — at two programs. One of Wheeler's biggest strengths is weight-lifting expertise, which should be key in a program that appears to be in rebuilding mode with the graduation of speedy super star DeVonte Dedmon, who helped the Lions reach the 2011 and '12 playoffs.
5. Who are the top players? After back-to-back years in which four Bay Rivers players moved on to Division I, no obvious D-I senior stands out. York junior Darius Reynolds, who had 12 sacks last year — from a defensive tackle position, no less — should be the district's next big-time recruit.
Tabb's Hinson is not a D-I recruit, but can join a select group to run for more than 1,000 yards three consecutive seasons. Smithfield's Pierce is such a supremely gifted athlete that it would be no surprise to see Clark Harrell move him from wide receiver to wingback to get him the ball more.
No district player is more of a breakaway threat than Lafayette's Villanueva-Pernell, who ran three kicks back for scores a year ago, in addition to catching 38 passes for 492 yards and six scores in an otherwise non-passing Wing-T offense. Evan Sperling says he'll rejoin Grafton football as a senior after focusing on other sports as a junior, giving the Clippers perhaps the district's most talented QB.
Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649. O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun